Strictly speaking, Salcombe estuary isn’t technically an estuary but a Ria; a tidal inlet with no major fresh water source flowing through it. It was formed as river-cut valleys were flooded by post-glacial rising sea levels. Such flooded river valleys are known as ‘rias’, or in this instance, a ‘dendritic ria’ as each creek is itself a ria!
At the mouth of the estuary lies Salcombe – famous as a sailing destination and a characteristic town with stone quaysides and brightly painted buildings. There are many creeks and valleys to explore around the Estuary leading to picturesque villages with thatched houses and country pubs serving real ale, Scrumpy and good food.
Southpool is one such village that regularly wins prizes for best-kept village. At low tide there are stepping stones from one side of the creek to another – a fun treat for kids – and the gateway to the pub for grown-ups! (See The Millbrook in Salcombe restaurants section).
The larger town of Kingsbridge lies at the head of the Salcombe estuary – in the summer the Rivermaid Ferry makes trips between Salcombe and Kingsbridge (when the tides are right).
The climate in Salcombe is almost Mediterranean bringing balmy summers and mild winters to the area. Many species of plant life flourish here that are rarely found in other parts of the UK, and birds such as egrets, cormorants and herons flock here in their thousands.
The Salcombe estuary grows Eel grass which supports a rare UK seahorse population. In fact, Eelgrass is the perfect environment for seahorse nurseries!
Dolphins, basking sharks and seals are also frequent visitors to the waters giving water skiers a bit of a shock! There is one famous dolphin called Danny who normally lives in Dartmouth but he is known for his visits to Salcombe in the quieter winter months. He even has his own Facebook page with his thoughts on life in the ocean blue!